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India dismantles global drug syndicate linked to SA and a Mexican crime boss

India dismantles global drug syndicate linked to SA and a Mexican crime boss
A screenshot of a website that appears to be selling Dr Seuss-themed LSD. (Graphic: Jocelyn Adamson / Images: Pixabay; Supplied)

Indian authorities recently dismantled an international darknet LSD trafficking syndicate named after a notorious Mexican cartel boss. Their investigations revealed images linked to books by children’s author Dr Seuss printed on some drugs.

Nearly 30,000 tiny squares of blotting paper saturated with LSD have been confiscated in a drug trafficking crackdown in India that has disrupted the activities of an international syndicate named after a notorious Mexican cartel leader.

The syndicate allegedly has links to South Africa.

On 1 August, India’s Press Information Bureau announced that the country’s Narcotics Control Bureau swooped on two international drug groups.

It was alleged the syndicates operated via the darknet, a computer network that mainly criminals use. 

Daily Maverick has established that drugs matching what Indian authorities have flagged appear to be on sale via websites that are easy to access.

The two syndicates targeted in India were involved in trafficking LSD, also known as acid.

‘Dream vs hideous nightmare’

Of the two syndicates, one was tackled earlier this year after investigations that began in April.

During that phase of their project, Indian police seized 15,000 “LSD blotters”.

A US Drug Enforcement Administration fact sheet on LSD described it as “a potent hallucinogen” available in various forms.

This included “in saturated absorbent paper,” for example, blotting paper, which is “divided into small, decorated squares, with each square representing one dose”.

The South African Police Service (SAPS), on its website, warns: “These drugs cause powerful hallucinations or dreams in which your reality is changed. You cannot predict whether the dream will be enjoyable or be a hideous nightmare.”

Operations in SA

Of the two LSD syndicates recently targeted in India, the biggest was known as the Zambada Cartel.

Indian authorities cracked down on it a few weeks ago and it was linked to countries including South Africa.

The Times of India quoted the Narcotics Control Bureau’s deputy director-general, Gyaneshwar Singh, as saying: “The Zambada Cartel also operates in the UK, US, South Africa, Canada, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey.

“The cartel was being operated by educated men aged 21 to 25 years.”

It is understood LSD could have been sent to South Africa via the syndicate.

Daily Maverick sent a query about the India crackdowns to the SAPS, but had not received a response by the time of publication.

Sinaloa namesake 

The Zambada Cartel derived its name from Ismael Zambada Garcia, also known as El Mayo, who is from Sinaloa in Mexico and is wanted in the US for crimes including drug trafficking and “conspiracy to kill in a foreign country”.

It is not clear whether Zambada Garcia himself was involved in the cartel that was bust in India.

According to the US Department of State: “Ismael Mario Zambada Garcia is the long-time leader of the Zambada Garcia faction of the Sinaloa Cartel.  Zambada Garcia is unique in that he has spent his entire adult life as a major international drug trafficker, yet he has never spent a day in jail…

“The U.S. Department of State is offering an INCREASED REWARD OF UP TO $ 15 MILLION for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Zambada Garcia.”

In the crackdown in India, it was announced at the start of this month that as part of investigations into the Zambada Cartel, 29,013 pieces of “LSD blots” were seized, the most in the country’s history.

MDMA powder was also discovered and confiscated, and over three months until the start of August, 22 people were arrested.

Crypto and social media

India’s Press Information Bureau said the syndicate contacted buyers via social media sites and made deliveries using couriers.

“Payments were received and made only through cryptocurrencies and their conversion thereof and no verbal communications were made amongst the vendors, or vendors and buyers,” it said.

The Hindustan Times reported that some of the LSD recovered during the recent crackdowns in India was sourced from a darknet operator known as Dr Seuss or Tribe Seuss.

“Officials said Tribe Seuss manufactures LSD blots and manages outlets in the US, South Africa and Canada,” it reported.

Dr Seuss was the pen name of the US children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel. 

Dr SeussLSD

On an online forum, former customers of “the Doctor Seuss team” recalled obtaining LSD from them.

A Google group message, posted on 2 August, a day after Indian police announced the massive LSD crackdowns, said: “LSD is not dead. This is the third batch of LSD Crystals of the French crew behind Dr. Seuss… And you know what? People say these also feel pure, whatever this means.”

As of this week, another website was still up and advertising Dr Seuss LSD blotters.

Twenty-five LSD blots were on sale for about US$80, which equates to roughly R1,530.

The advertisement detailed the dosages as follows:

“0.5-1 hit – light-medium trip, enough for beginners or inexperienced users to get a basic feeling on what LSD is. You will experience an enhancement of colours and sounds and a general shift of consciousness. 

“2 hits – medium-strong trip, suitable for most of the experienced users. Visuals can be strong on this dose and you might have some problems with communicating with others if you are sensitive.

“3-4 hits – strong – a very strong trip, if you don’t have a tolerance, better stay in a safe place and prepare to sink deeply into your mind.

“5 hits + well, if you take such a dose, I suppose that you really know what you are doing? enjoy the white light.”

While it was not clear where the LSD would be sent from, shipping to South Africa, according to the advertisement, was available and delivery was expected within five to seven days.

Deep drug ties 

Daily Maverick has reported extensively on drug trafficking ties between India and South Africa. 

In October last year, it was reported that Indian police asked their South African counterparts to help them investigate where exactly cocaine and methamphetamine discovered in consignments of fruit imported from South Africa came from. Drugs worth R4.3-billion were found in consignments of apples, pears and oranges sent to India from South Africa.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tik and cocaine worth billions found in consignments of apples, pears and oranges exported from SA to India

The global heroin trade, which has links to the Taliban, also ties South Africa to India. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


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